A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (43)

In recent work, I edged-to-width and cross-cut the carcase boards. Soon it will be time to cut the dovetail joinery on the box corners, but I need to finish plane the boards which will have the pins on them ahead of time. Can’t leave the boards with the slight amount of planer ripple on there now can we? More than that though – the boards which have the pins cut cannot be planed down after the joinery as it would loosen the joints. The tail boards, on the other hand, can be planed after the joinery is cut as it won’t affect the fit. In any case, there are boards to plane, and they are tackled one by one. Areas exposed to view are given most of the attention, and areas which are hidden inside the cabinet are given a few passes and that’s about it.

I start out with my Funahiro ‘Tenkei’ single blade plane, working my way across:

As the board is twice as wide as my planing beam, I take a run of shavings with the board shifted over to one side, then move the board and plane the adjacent run of material.

After a pass over every part of the face with the steeply bedded single blade plane, I then do a second finishing pass, a slightly lighter cut, with a standard 8-bu (38.66˚) slope plane with chip breaker:

The result is that all the planer marks are removed and the surface is left, in my dreams at least, crisply flat and clean.

I am fortunate to have several options to choose among for a standard type 70mm finishing plane – this time I opted for the Usui Kengo plane called ‘Kenkon’. Like the Funahiro Tenkei, it uses Super Blue Steel, and goes one step further, being Vacuum Arc Remelted (‘VAR’) steel. This plane was last made in 2000 I believe – I bought mine as a lightly used example, that was sorta set up, but not especially well. I’m starting to get it a bit more tuned up now.

With two freshly sharpened blades, I can work two~three carcase board surfaces before I have to resharpen. Nice to have the chance to resharpen so frequently as it is a skill I am continually working to develop.

From time to time I am running my hand over the surface to see if there were any plane tracks to be felt:

It’s hard to photograph surfaces to show the sheen, however I couldn’t feel or see any track lines at all. That’s the goal of finish planing, and sometimes I am lucky enough to realize that goal.

Towards the end of the work on face #2, I could sorta sense that tear out could maybe happen soon with the slightly dulled Usui plane so I finished off with the steeper plane in a small area, just to be safe. Best just to resharpen.

At least with VG bubinga you can plane it without too much fuss, while the rather more unruly curly bubinga is another matter. On all eight VG carcase boards I only had a couple of small areas with slight tear out, nothing along the lines of what could be described as traumatic.

Another one goes under the knife:

Trying to capture the surface, as usual, stymies my (largely non-existent) photography skills:

Another one:

What’s this? Yep, another one:

Usui’s plane makes a few more passes on the last board, last surface:

That was a workout! Bubinga is a far from an easy material to plane. I did the best that I could and the results seem satisfactory for the time being. As I handle the boards over the next while, and look at them in the right lighting conditions, I imagine I’ll find spots on these boards needing further attention.

The side boards were then trimmed to finished length on the sliding saw.

Those side boards were then ready for the next step, namely layout:

All for this time my friends. Thanks for dropping by the CW blog. On to post 44.

9 Replies to “A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (43)”

  1. Chris,

    Enjoy your blog and had a question. Did I read that right 38.66º with a chip breaker on bubinga, I would think there will be some problems planing. If tear was unavoidable would you use a scraper or even sand paper?

    ~ Cam

  2. Hi Chris

    I am a bit curious about the 8 bu part.
    Is it correctly guessed from my part, that it is a proportion out of 10?
    So 8 bu will be a rise of 8 over the length of 10. That would work given that the inv. tan to 8/10 = 38.66 degrees.

    I find it interesting, if that is the standard angle of a Japanese plane, given that the western style more or less has 45 degrees as a standard angle.
    But I have to admit that I have never researched any information on Japanese planes. I have one at home that my father gave to me, but I haven't used it for real – hmm, maybe I should give it a try.

    BTW. I think your photo skills are fine.


  3. Hi Cam,

    thanks for the question. Yes, you read that right, the second plane blade I was using with chip breaker is bedded at 38.66˚. The key to controlling tear out with such a plane lies in the chip breaker. It needs to have the correct secondary bevel on its tip and be set very close to the main blade's cutting edge.

    The single knife plane I was using is bedded at 60˚.

    If i was having significant tear-out problems with the 38˚, then i would go to the 60˚. If I was having tear out problems yet, then I would go to a scraping plane. Usually that would do the trick as plane of last recourse, though I have found even that forward-bedded scraping plane will have a little tear out with curly bubinga once in while.


  4. Chris, Are you pulling the length of the board in one stroke? or a couple of shorter strokes? As far as you needing to “continuing develop” sharpening skills, I would say from the looks of the plane shavings your there. In reading the above post, it got me thinking…is there a book that you would recommend to someone trying out/obtaining their first Japanese Plane? I hate to repeat myself so much but….Well Done Chris..

  5. Joe,

    good to hear from you, and thanks for the question. Appreciate the compliment.

    I'm looking to pull full length shavings where possible. Sometimes a board will have grain direction change at one end or another or along one side of the board or the other, and I have to plane accordingly. I don't always get continuous shavings from the bubinga, but it is possible in some cases.

    There are books in Japanese describing plane set up and tuning, however if you don't read Japanese a certain amount of information will be lost to you.

    I did write a series here on Japanese plane tuning and set up, called “Smile and Wave”, a year or so back, and there are some postings on the CW forum on the same topic.

    I do happen offer a 4-day workshop in Japanese tool set up, focussing mostly on the kanna, with a course scheduled for this May as a matter of fact. For that course you are encouraged to bring a brand new plane to set up.


  6. Jonas,

    yes, you guessed correctly, 8-bu refers to its proportion out of 10-bu. 8-bu is the standard bedding angle, though you can obtain/make planes with other bedding angles readily.

    I would suggest you give Japanese planes a try, though be forewarned you might find yourself hooked in no time.

  7. Hi Chris,
    love your work. I am interested in your sawhorses though I love building them. Have you done a post on the one on the Right in the last pic? Also I notice you have a few other lovely examples I would like to see a post on if you get the time.

  8. Andrew,

    for more on the construction of the sawhorse on the right, please look for the thread entitled “An Irregular situation” from March 2009.


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